Five #brandfails to Avoid in B2B Content Marketing

If you’ve seen the movies All the President’s Men or Almost Famous, then you’re already familiar with the idea of writing about something you’re passionate about. In these movies, the journalists were fully immersed in their subject, willing to do almost anything to “get the story.”

This is pretty common in journalism, and even in B2C copywriting. But when it comes to B2B copywriting, it’s not as obvious. Emotion is an important element to put into your B2B copywriting, especially when you read studies that show more than 50% of B2B brands have an emotional connection with their consumers. This makes sense, since it’s still people behind the B2B buyer mask, right?

However, many B2B companies are shy when it comes to putting emotion into their copywriting. More specifically, they’re worried about putting the wrong emotion into it, and risk becoming just another example of a #brandfail.

(The fact that there’s a hashtag for this on social media goes to show you how often it actually happens.)

One of the areas where it’s “safe” to use emotion in B2B content is in a corporate blog. Readers expect to see a little more emotion in there, especially if the posts are attributed to an individual author at the company (like the CEO or CMO). Showing off a little emotion can help build trust and likeability with readers, since it proves that there’s a human being behind the content. It also deepens the relationship you’re building with the reader as it gives a glimpse “behind the curtain” of the company.

That doesn’t mean you should have free rein to write about anything and everything on the company’s blog, however.

Avoid these five situations with your corporate blogging content, and you’ll avoid the #brandfail pitfall.

Bad Situation #1: The content conflicts with the company’s brand messaging

This happens when you don’t have your brand message formalized in a marketing style guide. Authors are unsure of simple things, like how to style the company’s name (is it bold, in a particular font, in all caps, etc.), to more complex notions of prospect personas and writing for those personas. When content is off-messaging, it sticks out and can be jarring to readers. Ensure that all content is vetted and reviewed by someone familiar with the brand message before publishing it.

Bad Situation #2: The content irritates brand stakeholders

Since there are so many stakeholders involved in the buyer’s decision in the B2B market (customers, influencers, prospects, C-level executive prospects, resellers, partners, etc.), it’s pretty easy to irritate someone along the way with your content. All of these groups expect a particular message and tone of message to come from you, the B2B brand. Publishing content that runs contrary to those expectations can be damaging to your brand. For example, publishing cutting-edge content in a conservative market may alienate prospects or partners.

Bad Situation #3: The content highlights weaknesses in the brand’s products

Intended or not, highlighting your brand’s weaknesses is something that should be avoided at all costs in B2B brand messaging. It implies a lack of preparation and confidence in the products you’re selling. If the brand isn’t confident about the product, then how can a customer trust it? Especially in the B2B marketplace where sales tend to involve high purchase prices, prospects are not going to be willing to sign a contract for those high numbers if they don’t trust the brand, right?

Bad Situation #4: The content is controversial

Sometimes riding a controversial topic’s coattails can be an advantage to a marketing program, however starting a controversy just for the sake of controversy isn’t a good idea. Again, the B2B buying cycle is a long one and involves many different people and stages. If just one of those people is off-put by the controversial content, the entire sale can be lost. Understanding your readers and market can be especially helpful here. That way, you’ll know when you can push those boundaries, and went to stay within them.

Bad Situation #5: The content can open your brand up to unnecessary criticism

This can be a tough one to gauge, as the content may pass all of the red flag tests before the brand publishes it, but then it touches a nerve and sets off a storm of criticism. For example, last year J.P. Morgan, the multinational financial services firm, held a Twitter chat with one of their investment bankers. They thought it would be a good idea for the banker to answer questions from the twittersphere. Instead, they were treated to an epic backlash of sarcastic questions and negative comments from the public. (Turns out that this chat was scheduled shortly after J.P. Morgan reached a $4.5-billion settlement with their investors, who lost a LOT of money when shaky mortgage-backed securities crashed disastrously.) Keeping track of your market and industry, as well as having a keen understanding of your readers will help you avoid this one.

Figuring out what to write about is hard

In order to avoid these and other bad situations online, B2B brands are learning that it pays to hire good copywriters and marketing folks to manage their content. In fact, many of them are creating internal content teams modeled after news organizations — companies like Intel, Oracle, and Qualcomm have already done it, and have started hiring veteran journalists to lead the teams. A former technology editor at BusinessWeek now leads the IBM blog. A former CNET journalist now writes for Evernote. NVIDIA hired a former Forbes columnist for their publications.

That’s because journalists and other professional writers are used to thinking about more than just the content they’re writing — things like readers, audience expectations, brand perception, and more. They’re used to thinking about these things on a regular basis, and can help brands navigate these dangerous emotional waters.

How are you helping your B2B clients get some emotion into their marketing content? Have you helped any of them recover from one of these bad situations? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

This article, Five #brandfails to Avoid in B2B Content Marketing, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: September 4, 2014

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